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Kristin Fracchia

Complete Guide to ACT Question Types

We have a lot of great stuff on our blog here about the ACT’s question types, but not all in one place! So here’s your complete guide to all of the question types that appear on the ACT exam, with links to sample questions (with video and text explanations for the answers) and more help!


ACT English

Content-wise, there are two basic question types on the ACT English test: first, those that test your knowledge of proper English grammar and usage, and second, those that test your understanding of good writing. The former are categorized as Usage/Mechanics questions and the latter are called Rhetorical Skills questions.


  • Punctuation: these questions are about identifying and correcting misplaced, missing, or unnecessary commas, apostrophes, colons, semicolons, dashes, periods, question marks, and exclamation points.

Click here for a sample ACT English punctuation question with answer and video explanation.

  • Grammar and usage: these questions are mostly about subject/verb agreement, pronoun agreement, cases and forms, adjectives, adverbs, verb forms, comparative and superlative modifiers, and idioms.
  • Sentence structure: these questions are mostly about the relationships between independent and dependent clauses, run-on sentences, comma splices, sentence fragments, misplaced modifiers, shifts in verb tense or voice, and shifts in pronoun person or number


Rhetorical Skills

  • Strategy: these questions are about the choices and strategies a writer makes in putting together an essay. They are often about the appropriateness of a sentence or the overall essay in terms of the essay’s purpose, focus and audience, or about the effect of adding, deleting, or revising phrases and sentences in the essay.
  • Organization: these questions typically have to do with the order and coherence of sentences or paragraphs within an essay, or where a phrase should go within a sentence.
  • Style: these questions are about choosing the most effective choice in terms of style, tone, clarity and conciseness. Pro tip: always eliminate wordiness and redundancy on the ACT.


Also, check out our complete study guide to ACT English. For more helpful tips for studying for ACT English, check out the dozens of posts on this page.


ACT Math

Structurally speaking, all of the ACT Math questions are basically the same. They are all multiple choice, but what most students want to know is what topics are tested on the Math test, so here we go.

  • Pre Algebra: questions are mostly about basic operations, decimals, fractions, square roots, factors, ratios, percents, one variable equations, simple counting techniques and probability, and understanding basic descriptive statistics.
  • Elementary Algebra: questions are mostly about exponents and square roots, evaluating algebraic expressions through substitution, using variables to express relationships and factoring quadratic equations.
  • Intermediate Algebra: questions are mainly about understanding the quadratic formula, rational and radical expressions, absolute value equations and inequalities, sequences, systems of equations, quadratic inequalities, roots of polynomials, complex numbers, and matrices.
  • Coordinate Geometry: questions are mostly about graphs of points, lines, polynomials, circles and quadratics, graphing inequalities, slope, parallel and perpendicular lines, distance between points, midpoints and some conics.

Click here for a sample ACT coordinate geometry question with answer and explanation.

  • Plane Geometry: questions are mainly about angles, and the relationships among parallel and perpendicular lines, properties of circles, triangles, rectangles, parallelograms and trapezoids, transformations, volume and three-dimensional geometry.
  • Trigonometry: a handful of questions are on basic trig functions, right triangles, graphing trig functions, solving basic trigonometric equations and using basic trig identities.

Click here for a sample ACT Math trigonometry question with answer and explanation.

For oodles of posts with tips and strategies for ACT Math, check out our ACT Math page.


ACT Reading

  • Detail: questions that essentially ask you to find a detail in the text.
  • Main Idea: questions that ask you to determine the primary message of a paragraph, section or entire passage.
  • Comparative Relationships: questions that ask you to compare two or more people, viewpoints, events or theories.
  • Cause-Effect Relationships and Sequence of Events: questions that ask you to determine what caused something else or what is the effect of something in the passage.
  • Inferences/Generalizations: questions that require you to synthesize information and boil it down to a more concise form.
  • Meanings of Words: questions that ask you to determine the meaning of a word in context.

Click here for a sample ACT Reading Meaning of Words question with answer and video explanation.

  • Author’s Voice, Method, or Purpose: questions that ask you to draw conclusions about the author’s point of view and method, basically how a passage is developed or its purpose.

For more help with ACT Reading, check out our ACT Reading page.


ACT Science

  • Detail: questions that ask you to find a specific data point on a graph, table, diagram, etc. and report the answer.
  • Pattern: questions that ask you to predict a trend or relationship among the given data, generally by finding a point between existing data points or continuing to follow a trend beyond existing data.
  • Inference: questions that ask you to draw conclusions from the data, sometimes combining information from multiple figures or experiments, and sometimes evaluating how new information would affect the experiment.

Click here for a sample ACT Science inference question with answer and explanation.

  • Scientific method: questions that ask about how experiments are designed, or how experimenters test and interpret data.
  • Compare and contrast: questions that only appear on the “Conflicting Viewpoints” passage and ask you to compare various aspects of opposing hypotheses on a scientific phenomenon, or explain how additional information might affect the various arguments presented.

ACT Science can be seriously tricky. For strategy advice on tackling ACT Science, check out our ACT Science page.

Remember, it’s not important at all that you memorize these question types on the ACT. Use this list just to familiarize yourself with the test so you know what’s coming, then get practicing. We’ve got you covered with hundreds of more practice questions and lessons on everything ACT!


About Kristin Fracchia

Kristin makes sure Magoosh's blogs are chock-full of awesome, free resources for students preparing for standardized tests. With a PhD from UC Irvine and degrees in Education and English, she’s been working in education since 2004 and has helped students prepare for standardized tests, as well as college and graduate school admissions, since 2007. She enjoys the agonizing bliss of marathon running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.

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